Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Aphrodite Comes to Call

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)
Milkweed and clover are in flower, and the heat drenched fields of the Two Hundred Acre Wood are full of butterflies. We saw feeding Monarchs at a distance this week, but alas, there are no photos to tuck in here this morning.  Spencer dances through the fields ahead of me, and he scatters dragonflies and butterflies like confetti as he moves.  His ears fly, and his expressive tail waves to and fro like a flag.  So what if I must content myself with snippets, scraps and fleeting vignettes because of his flying feet?  My furry companion is a happy lad.

A female Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite) was fluttering along the trail yesterday, and when she alighted in a stand of tall white clover, I managed to capture a single photo of her.  On arriving home, time was spent with a magnifying glass and various field references, trying to figure out whether my image was an Aphrodite or a Great Spangled Fritillary, another favorite summer butterfly. The small black spot below the discal cell on the lady's wing could hardly be seen, but it was there, and there were no wide pale bands on her hind wings when I saw her in profile - the spaces between the markings on the undersides were a bright coppery color.

The circular silvery coins on the reverse of an Aphrodite's wings are known in the science of chromatics as structural coloring (or in layman's terms as iridescence). Light reaching the wing spots is scattered by layers of specialized scales rather than being absorbed by ordinary wing pigments between them, and the coin shapes seem to give off light.  There is structural coloring to be seen in all sorts of wild places - butterflies and beetles, blue jay and peacock feathers, the shells of oysters (where it is called mother-of-pearl or nacre), cephalopods like the Nautilus with its perfect spiral shell.

A single Monarch capture would have been grand, but yesterday's Aphrodite was magnificent, and just as she was .  My inner entomologist is alive and well, and whatever else she forgets in life, she remembers the Latin names of things.

2 comments:

Laura~Pretty Pix said...

Beautiful capture!

Barbara R. said...

So glad your inner entomologist carries a camera. Thanks for the description, because I have no inner entomologist, just eyes and appreciation.